Search

Nasal flaring

Definition

Nasal flaring is when the nostrils widen when you breathe. It is often a sign that is it difficult to breathe.

Alternative Names

Flaring of the alae nasi (nostrils); Nostrils - flaring

Considerations

Nasal flaring is seen mostly in infants and younger children.

Any condition that causes difficulty breathing can cause nasal flaring. While many causes of nasal flaring are not serious, some can be life threatening.

In young infants, nasal flaring can be a very important symptom of respiratory distress.

Common Causes

Home Care

Seek immediate emergency help if you or your child has signs of a breathing difficulty.

Call your health care provider if

Call your health care provider if:

  • There is any persistent, unexplained nasal flaring, especially in a young child.
  • develops in the lips, nail beds, or skin. This is a sign that Bluish color is severe and may mean that an emergency condition is developing.breathing difficulty
  • You think that your child is having trouble breathing.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The doctor or nurse will perform a physical exam and ask questions about the symptoms and medical history, such:

  • When did the symptoms start?
  • Are they getting better or worse?
  • Is the breathing noisy, or are there wheezing sounds?
  • What other symptoms are there, such as sweating or feeling tired? 
  • Do the muscles of the stomach, shoulders, or rib cage pull inward during breathing? (See: intercostal retractions )

The doctor or nurse will listen carefully to the breath sounds. This is called auscultation .

Tests that may be done include:

Oxygen may be given if there is a breathing problem.

References

Wiebe RA, Scott SM.  General approach to the pediatric patient. In: Marx J, ed. . 7th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2011:chap. 164.

Encyclopedia content is provided as information only and not intended to replace the advice and instruction from your personal physician.